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Arctic Ocean is Changing



The Arctic Ocean is changing rapidly. The past few years have seen a dramatic drop in the amount of sea ice that seasonally covers the Arctic Ocean and this has changed its marine ecosystems in fundamental ways. First and foremost, loss of sea ice means the loss of seal and polar bear habitat. However, it also means a more sunlit ocean and higher growth rates for the single celled algae that dominate its surface waters. Because these algae form the base of the Arctic food web, the Arctic Ocean is becoming a more productive ecosystem. In just the last decade, primary production in the Arctic increased by a whopping 40%. This unprecedented increase in productivity is a direct consequence of reduced sea ice cover and a longer algae growing season (see figure). The ultimate impact of this increase is uncertain, but should it continue, it could bring about dramatic changes in this unique high latitude ecosystem.